In addition to following the basic guidelines for good oral health, infants and children require special care and attention. According to the Surgeon General, dental decay (cavities) is the most common chronic disease of childhood.
The most important thing is to teach proper oral health habits in the early years.
- Before your child develops his or her first teeth, oral health can be maintained by wiping your infant's gums with a damp washcloth or gauze pad after each feeding.
- As soon as teeth come in, you should clean the baby teeth with a soft cloth or baby toothbrush and a smear of fluoride toothpaste twice a day.
- Begin using floss when there are 2 or more baby teeth.
- Begin teaching your child techniques of proper brushing around age 2 or 3.
- At age 3, increase the amount of fluoride toothpaste to a pea-sized amount and brush twice daily.
- Begin teaching your child to floss around age 6.
- Monitor your child's brushing until around age 7 or 8, or when the child is able to independently brush and floss correctly.
Visit a dental professional
Your child should begin visiting a dental professional around his or her first birthday. Your child's oral health care professional will check oral hygiene and the development of your child's teeth, and will suggest a schedule of regular visits.
Infant feeding tips
- Always hold your baby during bottle or breast feedings.
- Never prop the bottle or leave it in the crib or bed with your child. Allowing a child to suck freely on a bottle can lead to baby bottle tooth decay. If you do, use water only.
- Introduce a cup at 6 months of age, and wean your baby from the bottle at 12-18 months old.
- Encourage rinsing the mouth out with water after giving your baby food or sugary juice.
Child Feeding Tips
- Avoid sweet, sticky snacks (fruit leather, candy).
- Limit sugary juice.
- Only give soda, candy and other sweets for special occasions.
- Choose fresh fruits, vegetables or whole grain snacks.
Dental sealants are thin liquid coatings applied to the chewing surfaces of your child's teeth. Ask your dental professional to determine if sealant applications would benefit your child. Dental sealants prevent about 40%-75% of decay in the treated teeth for about nine years.